When Michael D. Evans's Beyond Iraq: The Next Move: Ancient Prophecy and Modern Day Conspiracy Collide (June) hit #18 on the New York Times extended bestseller list for paperback nonfiction on July 27, it reflected careful planning and an abundance of good fortune for newly formed White Stone Books of Lakeland, Fla. Evans, an evangelical minister who has written several nonfiction books, as well as journalism for Time magazine and other mainstream venues, had some useful media connections that led to coverage on CNN, Fox & Friends and talk radio.
The book also got some unexpected breaks. For example, a June 27 ad in USA Today fortuitously fell directly across from the 2003 NBA draft picks. Also, when Beyond Iraq appeared on Amazon. com's bestseller list in the #2 spot—between the new Harry Potter and Hillary Clinton's Living History—Debbie Justus, who oversees White Stone's editorial, marketing, production and design, sent a copy to Rush Limbaugh, who mentioned it on his show soon afterward.
Combining citations from scripture with analysis of current events and Middle Eastern history, Beyond Iraq opposes President Bush's "road map" initiative, insisting that Israel's West Bank and Gaza were given by God to the Jews, and that their consolidation is a prerequisite for the Second Coming. Now in its third printing, after an initial run of 50,000 copies, the book has sold approximately 89,000 copies, and is doing especially well at chain bookstores, Christian booksellers and the major online retailers, fueled partly by recommendations from political and church groups.
The book is a bit of an anolmaly on the tiny press's first list of 10 mostly religious or inspirational titles, which aim to "inspire people on their walk with God," and are distributed by Tulsa, Okla., religion publisher Harrison House. But Justus said that even if Beyond Iraq was appealing to the fringe of White Stone's typical audience, the issue-driven title is still in line with the press's religious mission.
The bestseller, which was written before the war with Iraq, came to White Stone through the author's agent, attorney Tom Winters, in the fall of 2002. Although the small start-up couldn't offer a major advance, Justus made a firm commitment on the detailed marketing and publicity plan she developed for the book.
Beyond print advertising and a media schedule that had Evans giving two to three interviews a day, Justus relied on an extensive e-mail and postcard campaign aimed directly at readers, to help differentiate the book from other current-affairs titles. The strategy worked well, generating large preorders on Amazon and in the chain stores. "If you have an author who can deliver," observed Justus, "you need to be a publisher who can deliver as well."